Student-Centered Classrooms Foster Civic and Career Readiness

November 16, 2015

Studies show that the skills employers want in their employees align perfectly with the types of skills learners practice in a student-centered learning environment. In this post, we make some connections between the skills employers seek and how student-centered strategies help develop those skills in young people.

What employers are saying

In the article Workplace basics: the skills employees need and employers want, Anthony P. Carnevale and Nicole Smith from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University discuss desirable skills and standards for new hires. Many characteristics referenced in the article are supported in student-centered learning environments, including:

Knowing how to learn

Research shows that when youth understand that learning is a skill (versus a talent), they are more motivated to try. Student-centered approaches to learning—and especially competency-based education—enable students to develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence, skills, and abilities are not fixed, but can be developed over time, is a valuable skill for employees. A student-centered learning environment empowers students to not only approach learning with a growth mindset, but to take ownership of their learning by understanding their personal learning styles. As workplaces can constantly change, employees must be able to absorb new information quickly and comprehensively in order to keep up.

Customer service and other highly in-demand skills and knowledge bases

High levels of customer service are required in 55 percent of all jobs. Similarly, listening, oral communications, and other interpersonal skills take priority when considering employability. Demand for abilities in high-wage, high-growth, and high-demand occupations further, the author’s note that the characteristics employers prioritized are often “present in a person at early ages and develop over time”. Assets such as inductive and deductive reasoning, oral and written comprehension, and problem solving are practiced by learners in student-centered classrooms. Student-centered classrooms provide students with the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills through frequent opportunity for collaboration, meaningful public presentations of work to demonstrate mastery, and student ownership of learning.

Thriving under new competitive standards

As market needs have shifted over time, the skills that employers seek and value have shifted as well. Skills such as consistency and empathy have become higher-valued in the workforce. Students who experience opportunities to learn outside the classroom during high school are exposed to the demands of a professional workplace, including the importance of being a reliable member of a team. When anytime, anywhere learning opportunities include getting involved in the community beyond the school walls, students can see themselves as part of a larger community, and build greater empathy and understanding.

Skills to support, skills to lead

A 2010 report from IBM surveyed 1,500 corporate and public sector leaders around questions of leadership and employability. Key takeaways from this report can be directly aligned with outcomes from student-centered learning approaches to learning, including:

Emphasis on creativity

When asking leaders what traits they believed were most important for high-stakes roles, about 60 percent of CEOs cited creativity as the most important leadership quality. Creativity can appear in a variety of forms—troubleshooting, brainstorming, customization—and all can be found in a student-centered learning environment. Student-centered learning, for example, positions students to discover answers independently and manage their own learning paths. When students are given the freedom to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways, creativity flourishes.

Prioritizing people skills

Once again we see the focus on interpersonal skills. Students develop these skills in student-centered classrooms by regularly participating in opportunities that require sharing ideas, receiving feedback, and synthesizing information. The Common Instructional Framework also focuses on several of these skills as powerful teaching and learning strategies.

Benefits of anytime, anywhere learning through early exposure to the workforce

In the report Let’s Get Real: Deeper Learning and the Power of the Workplace, author Nancy Hoffman at Jobs for the Future emphasizes the importance of learning to work and learning about work during adolescence. Referencing Robert Halpern (Erikson Institute) and John Seeley Brown (Deloitte Center for the Edge), Hoffman identifies several benefits from early career exploration:

Multigenerational exposure and mentor support

Research shows that multigenerational learning environments are beneficial to youth. Not only can these opportunities create authentic representations of the working world, but they also provide students with opportunities to learn through informal mentoring relationships. When young people are only exposed to each other, their transitions to adulthood can be delayed.

Increased student engagement

Students become truly engaged when they believe their projects have real-world impact. Anytime, anywhere learning provides opportunities for meaningful work and develops student agency.

Development of metacognitive skills

Career exploration experiences welcome curiosity and reflection. Opportunities for deeper learning are created when space is opened for youth to connect their learning to the real world. Helping students understand why they are learning specific things inside or out of a classroom increases ownership of the learning experience.

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